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Strait-Jacket (1964) - Blu-ray Review

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Strait-Jacket (1964) - Bu-ray Review

5 beers

It begins with a whole lot of screaming and that's exactly how it ends, too.  Strait-Jacket is one tense flick.  That's what happens when Joan Crawford is allowed to become all sorts of unhinged with an axe in her hand.

Four minutes into this sick film, Joan Crawford is chopping off heads and limbs after she discovers her hubby (Lee Majors) in bed with another woman.  Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.  The sound of sharp blades cutting through flesh is haunting.  William Castle’s Strait-Jacket, a certified classic of B-cinema, finally arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Scream Factory’s glorious efforts to re-introduce this film to the public.

This film has one of my favorite Crawford moments.  The scene, in which her therapist pays an unexpected home visit to check up on her progress, features Crawford – in all her badass glory – striking a match for her cigarette with an LP spinning on the tabletop player.  Holy shit.  She was a diva and it shows.  Confidence.  Poise.  And the strike of a match on a vinyl LP.  Wowser.

"Strait-Jacket, with a standout performance from Crawford, is all sorts of manic and unsettling.  And it saves its best bits for the very end."

There is something uniquely special about a William Castle production.  They are often spellbinding and certainly memorable.  Castle, serving as producer and director, brings this tale of gaslighting to full bloom.  Castle is, once again, on point here, making sure audience members got tiny axes to swing at the screen during the film's opening.  The results of Strait-Jacket are right up there with the highs of 13 Ghosts and The Tingler, also on Blu-ray. 

Strait-Jacket, written by Psycho’s Robert Bloch, is no different.  We get stirring strings and vivacious vistas as Crawford, returning to her daughter’s home twenty years after being sent away for manslaughter, gives a tour de force performance as the deranged Lucy Harbin.

Castle, always aware of his surroundings, cranks the audio in this flick and gives audiences a dynamic soundscape with which Harbin’s psychotic behavior – because she’s not done with the breakdowns yet – gets to spring board off from.  The results are unsettling.  Strait-Jacket, co-starring Diane Baker as Carol, her daughter who witnessed the murder of her father all those years ago at her mother’s hands, and Leif Erikson as Bill, Harbin’s brother. 

Strait-Jacket, with its sharp descent into madness courtesy of some jangling bracelets and the strong swing of an axe, is still disturbing.  It is a horror film that, with great suspense, builds upon those opening few moments of madness with a concentrated effort, producing a film that is one step from murder.  Just add up all the shots – set-up in such a way to isolate Harbin from the rest of “normal” society thanks to her murderous past – which portrays Crawford staring at a blade.  The temptation looms.  It could be oh so easy.  Stab, stab, and stab again. 

Harbin is not right in the head.  And the twenty years in the prison have done nothing for her except to turn her issues into subscriptions.  Even a day of shopping and changing her image with her daughter can’t improve her mind.  You see, Carol wants her mother back as she remembers her – hairstyle and all – and, when she convinces her mother to take care of herself, the transformation into the murderess from twenty years ago is complete.  Uh oh.

Strait-Jacket (1964) - Bu-ray Review

Bad things are about to happen.  And this rural farmhouse, complete with chickens, livestock, and George Kennedy as the hired hand, isn’t ever going to be the same again.  Suddenly, axe blades are found in her bed and she wakes up with decapitated heads on the pillows next to her.  Could it all be a dream?  Or is she slipping from all reality and carrying out the past deeds repeatedly?  Because when she finally meets her daughter’s boyfriend, well, heads are going to roll, but who will be doing all the cutting?!

Strait-Jacket, with a standout performance from Crawford, is all sorts of manic and unsettling.  And it saves its best bits for the very end.  You never know where it’s headed – especially once it opens up beyond its rustic farmhouse settings – but the film remains a standout of the Castle catalog.  Even Columbia is in on this killer flick, showcasing their classic logo without its head at the end of the movie.  AWESOME.

Sharpen those blades!  Strait-Jacket is ready to cut you up.

Strait-Jacket (1964) - Bu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
93 mins
: William Castle
Robert Bloch
Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, Leif Erickson
: Horror | Thriller
Memorable Movie Quote: "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! No I didn't mean that, I love you. I hate you!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Columbia Pictures Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 19, 1964
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 21, 2018
Synopsis: Crawford plays Lucy Harbin, a woman who goes berserk when she finds her husband in bed with another woman. With her three-year-old daughter accidentally witnessing the grisly act, Lucy axes the couple to death. She spends twenty years in a mental institution for the double murder.

After she is released, she moves in with her brother (Leif Erickson), his wife and her own daughter (Diane Baker), now twenty-three. Her nightmare is over ... or is it? When a spate of axe murders start occurring suddenly in the neighborhood, police think Lucy has reverted to her old ways. The truth is finally revealed in a rousing, blood-chilling finale.

Strait-Jacket (1964) - Bu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- August 21, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English
DTS-HD Mono track
Discs: Blu-ray Disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

In typical low-budget fashion, the 1080p transfers on good within limits.  Scream Factory actually does better than Columbia did, though.  Levels are strong throughout, with black levels holding inky and shadows defined. Of particular note is the fact that the hi-definition upgrade in video and audio quality over the previous releases makes this release  easy to recommend, particularly when it’s available at such a low price for customers. Just don’t expect anything visually striking.  The film is presented in English language DTS-HD Mono track



  • There is a brand new commentary with Film Historians Steve Haberman, David J. Schow, And Constantine Nasr.  You will be educated.

Special Features:

Scream Factory, in their round of Castle productions, do not disappoint.  Fans get lots of NEW supplemental material concerning Crawford’s antics and Castle’s production.

  • Joan Had Me Fired – An Interview With Anne Helm
  • On The Road With Joan Crawford – An Interview With Publicist Richard Kahn
  • Battle-Ax: The Making Of Strait-Jacket
  • Joan Crawford Costume And Makeup Tests
  • Ax-Swinging Screen Test
  • Theatrical TrailerStill Gallery

Strait-Jacket (1964) - Bu-ray Review

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